EPL 2006: Arsenal 5 – Aston Villa 0

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
April 3rd, 2006 • 9:31 am

The Gunners were probably a bit lucky not to have to play their game against Portsmouth last week. Granted, it will mean further calendar headaches towards the end of the season, but relegation-threatened Portsmouth seem to be on a bit of a roll, with three wins in a row. Aston Villa, on the other hand, are definitely not in good form, and the Gunners were all over them at Highbury on Saturday.

It was another master-class by Thierry Henry & Co. Fluid passing, beautiful goals, and utter domination. Defensively, things were perhaps not as good as they have been in the past couple of games, which meant that Jens Lehmann did have a bit of work to do. But on the whole the game was a joy to watch.

Thierry Henry could even afford a bit of showboating before being taken off in anticipation of the Champions’ League game in mid-week. When Thierry found himself all alone in the middle of the Aston Villa box early in the first half and inexplicably chose, instead of taking a shot, to pass the ball to Pires, who didn’t expect it at all and actually completely lost his balance trying to retrieve it, there were reasons to fear that Arsenal would once again be guilty of overelaboration.

But, as the final score line clearly shows, there was actually no need to worry. Thierry Henry is in a rich vein of form at the moment, and with Adebayor, Pires, Reyes, van Persie, etc., the Gunners have tons of attacking options these days.

With Tottenham and Bolton both losing their games, it also means that Arsenal are closing in on that all-important fourth spot. While we’d appreciate a repeat of Liverpool’s exploits last season in the Champions’ League, we definitely do not want a repeat of their domestic performance. We want both the Champions’ League and the fourth spot!

The injuries to Fábregas and Éboué are obviously a concern, since both players have played such an integral part in the recent Champions’ League games. But ultimately the mark of a truly great team is the ability to overcome such hurdles. Injuries do happen, and in order to deserve to qualify, the Gunners have to demonstrate that they can cope.

It is going to be an important week for Arsenal’s season. First, they need to protect their lead and confirm their superiority against Juventus in Turin. Then they travel to Old Trafford and will be expected to get a result, not just in the context of the race for the fourth spot, but also to confirm that they can indeed compete with the best domestic teams. (The victory against Liverpool was good, but it wouldn’t have happened without Steven Gerrard’s mistake. The two games against Chelsea were disappointments. And the game against Manchester United ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw.)

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